Are You an Artist?

by April Schwaegerle.

Heart of Leland Bracelet-1

I just attended an exhilarating conference in Detroit hosted by the Detroit Creative Corridor Center, titled “Rust Belt to Artist Belt III”. This conference originated in Cleveland and we were fortunate to have it here in the Motor City this year.

Lake at Midnight Necklace

I am not writing to tell you about the conference but about the attendees.

There were approximately 300 people in attendance representative of all mediums such as: graphic designers, landscape designers, architects, photographers, fashion designers, sculptors, painters and at least one jewelry designer… me!

I had the opportunity to mingle at the parties and during the breaks and I came up with an ice-breaking question, “Are you an Artist?”

It was a simple enough of an inquiry, so I thought, but it provoked an emotional response that I did not anticipate.

“Me? An artist?” most replied with a look of confusion and self-doubt. One woman, in particular who held a Masters Degree of Fine Art, could not answer yes to this question.

Sleeping Bear Dunes Earrings

Wow! This made me realize that most artists lack confidence.

But why?

If I ask my seven-year old niece if she is an artist she would say yes. I think the difference is, in her mind, she believes she is an artist.

I am not sure if adult artists have lost that confidence along the way or if external forces like juries and judges have intimidated their beliefs. Or, are they comparing themselves to the esteemed and extolled?

I do not have the answer to why but I do know that if you want to succeed as a creative individual or own a creative business you must be shameless in announcing to the world that you are an artist!

Turtle in the Grass Necklace

My kindergarten teacher told my mother that I was going to be an artist when I grew up.

So I kept drawing. Then I painted. Then I was an advertising artist. Then I became a video producer.

Now I am a jewelry designer who primarily beads with a little wire wrapping thrown in for fun.

Maybe it just takes one person to believe in you even if that one person is yourself.

In my heart and soul… I have always been an artist. Are you an artist?

April Schwaegerle
April Francene Designs


Thank You!
by: Tara Hutchinson

Thank you for this post! It is always nice to hear someone speak about artists and our confidence (or lack of it), because for some reason in this profession it seems to be a serious obstacle that most of us need to overcome.

My best advice to artisis who think they might have an issue with self-confidence: practice. Practice being an artist. Ask yourself, “If I was an artist, how would I handle this situation?”, “If I was an artist, what would I do now?” Continually ask yourself these questions, and eventually, you will start to think of yourself as an artist. This technique worked well for me with patience. When I was in gridlocked traffic, I would find myself getting road-rage. I asked myself, “If I was a patient person, how would I act right now?” It didn’t take long before I was that patient person.

Great post!

Tara Hutchinson
Tara Hutch Jewelry Designs

by: April Schwaegerle

Great advice, Tara. I’m going to try that one about being a patient person. 🙂

yes, i am
by: pat barden

ithink a lot of people hear “artist”–and they think “starving”–idont think its lacking in confidence–ithink its more a cocky-ness–theyd rather be asked–do you have a masters and are you making crap-loads of money.

25 yrs agogo when i did the jewelry as a hobby–a co-worker called in an artist–istated–well, ah, not really–then she explained that iwas–based onthe creativity. then ithought–wow–i am. granted iwas making the jewelry so ihad something to do–im snot at all the nightly–oh, ihave my programs to watch–close to ten years agogo i did get a two-yr fine arts degree–ican paint, sketch, create all kinds of things–but its the jewelry where i feel artistic–

when people refer to me as “crafty”–itell them crafty isnt what i am. imay be starving–but i aint no starving crafty person

I am, but it took a while to admit it
by: Kristine Schroeder

I love this. I am an artist, but it took years for me to be able to say it without tripping over the words. I set intent every morning: I say, “I am an artist who has so many creative ideas that I have to write them down so I won’t forget them.”

I think lots of people think “painter” when they hear “artist”. What a shame – that’s so limiting.

The phrase “jewelry artist” has been problematic for me. The minute I referred to myself as a jewelry artist, they wanted me to repair a broken earring or something. That’s fine if you fix jewelry – I don’t.

Finally, I settled on “sculpture artist”. Of course, I’m such an introvert, my default setting is to try to say as few words as possible and look for an escape. I am working on connecting more and escaping less!


Artistic thoughts!
by: Tracy Dawn May

I agree that when one usually hears the word artist, they think of painters, sculptors , the fine arts. I have always defined myself as an artisan, but am beginning to realize that the way I see and use things, how I create ,how I decorate my house, yard, self is indeed, “artistic” and quite different from how my less artistic friends do things(neither is right or wrong, just different approaches )I also think that society sees artists in a certain way, as sort of flaky ,and because I am exteremely disciplined, I have minimized my artistic bent.

As for confidence, I once heard a fellow artist(there, I said it!) describe showing/selling your art to the world as being like displaying yourself naked, and I agree with that, except it is my internal self that I am showing and not many people do that in any sort of organized way and indeed, some avoid it completely(mass production is popular for more than just price!).
Tracy(Whimsy Jewellery Design)

Great question
by: Sally V

I agree that considering one’s self an artist has a lot to do with self-perception. I never felt that I had an artistic bone in my body, yet people comment on my “creativity.” I can’t draw, or paint, or sculpt — but I can take beads of different colors and substances and put them together in pleasing ways, and I can take a straight piece of wire and turn it into something beautiful, something that others admire and want to own. They are my “works of art.” The term “crafter” just doesn’t do justice to this – so I will proudly go with “artist.”

by: Tracy L. Carothers

Interesting question! My feeling is that everyone who ‘creates’ jewelry whether it be a simple string of beads or more elaborate craft – we are all ‘artists’. Certainly some are better at it and more creative than others, but the ability to hold something in your minds-eye and bring it to fruition is not something that EVERYONE can do.

I have always believed in my self as an artist and the greatest affirmation in my ability is the desire for, and sale of, my jewelry. My style is not for everyone but every time a piece sells or someone says ‘your work is fabulous’ – it ads just a bit more to my confidence.

Believe in yourself and your ability!

Tracy L. Carothers

A Great Read!
by: Jannea Varni

For everyone who isn’t quite sure whether or not they are an artist I found a wonderful book called “The War of Art”, not the “The Art of War”. It goes in depth and discusses the very issue you are mentioning which is defining yourself as an artist. It really helped me reevaluate my creative process and how I approach my jewelry. Your work is beautiful, keep up the great work.

I am an Artist
by: Sue

Great article. Thank you. I do call myself an artist, but I have just discovered that I really must be one.

The other day I had an argument with him and as a consequence was feeling a bit ‘down’ and ‘stressed’ and so was finding it difficult to design a piece of jewelry that I had to make for a customer.
When he asked me why I hadn’t completed the design and I told him, he said that I ‘should stop being a Diva’!

So I figured that if I can be called a Diva, then I must be an artist.

By the way, the argument didn’t last for long!


Yes… I am a Artist and Proud!
by: Arbie Goodfellow

Thank-You for sharing this with us.
It is nice to see that others have struggled with this idea as well as myself.

In the beginning I did struggle to tell friends and family that I was a Designer/Artist.

I design most days and I just can’t stop wherever I am… even on Holidays I do see that I look at most things through different eyes.

After talking to a lot of my clients who are Brides I now see myself the way they see me… a Designer/Artist is a very positive word to describe myself and I now wear the name proudly and happy that my career can be so creative and give both myself and others happiness.

Wear the name with pride!

by: Elizabeth Bennett

Thank you for bringing the question to the forefront. I have been wrestling with this for many years and just like you stated that when you ask a child if they are an artist the answer is an immediate yes. No hesitation. Children live in the moment of who they are. I think I have spent to many years trying to fit into what the culture calls normal. Trying to get the approval of people who don’t understand who I am. and I am now fighting back I am free. I AM AN ARTIST. It’s is how God created me; it is my purpose in life and I will not back away from who I am. To do anything less is a lie. I can only bring my best by being the truth. I have much to say through my creativity. Thanks again you have no idea how freeing your question is.

by: April Schwaegerle

How wonderful to read all these great stories and comments from all of you Artists!

thanks April
by: janice dance

Hi April,
I was so pleased to see your headline, because I have been feeling such a ‘fraud’ when people call me a ‘Jewellery Designer’. I think it stems from reading the little ‘Bio’s’ that designers supply to their outlets. Most read of formal design training or art qualifications, but I can not write anything like that. Basically I make jewellery that I like. I know that this feeling of being a fraud is holding me back from even more success. I especially struggle with the prices my jewellery attracts. I know I have to ‘get over it’ but I am struggling. Thanks for letting me know I am not alone.
kindest regards
Janice Dance
dandelion street jewellery

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  • These were JUST the stories I needed to read this morning. Am I an Artist? Wow, well Yeah!

    I only over the past 5 or 6 months became comfortable calling myself a “jewelry designer”, I always referred to myself as a “beader”. Although I started out that way 10 years ago I’ve come far, learned, watched, experimented…and like I am sure most of us do; found inspiration for pieces while grocery shopping, on the phone with a friend, driving down the highway…well…all my waking hours for the most part!

    #janice – I can sooo relate to what you are saying. I took one basic class years ago, a fairly prestigious class in pendant wire wrapping at the Roycliff Center in East Aurora, NY (got a certificate and everything whoo hoo!) about 7 months ago and I get books to learn techniques, especially in wire work, than try to turn those designs into my own. I have no great letters or experience or experience writing out a jewelry project etc… HOWEVER in reaching out and talking to many of those people who have years and years of experience, I’ve learned to accept that I am a Jewelry Artist. The first steps I took in contacting these people were frightening, I didn’t want to bother them only tell them how much they inspired me to keep pushing on etc….

    Every single one has written back a thank you, a lot of the time I make THEIR day which makes MY day and they have all helped me, encouraged me and even helped me to realize, yea, I do have a “style” that’s my own, I’m worthy of the title Artist, Etsy Shop owner and Jewelry Designer.

    For full disclosure, this feeling can wax and wane. I’m very very very curious as to why, and it seems with all Creative minded Artistic people, but primarily jewelry designers and painters really tear themselves up and put themselves down. Maybe, as stated earlier, it’s time to remember the Child in us – play a little more, notice a lot more and not take it all so seriously.

    I am going to sit on my back patio with the gradually warming temp here in Buffalo, NY, have a cup of coffee and think about my next 1,067 projects to go.

    My best to you all, my fellow Artists~~~ 🙂

  • Michele Counihan says:

    Yes I am an artist! About a year ago I read a very disappointing reader’s letter to a high-end design magazine. The writer claimed that those of us “who did not graduate from a design school” have no right to call ourselves artists. In other words, a BFA confers the description rather than God-given talent developed independent of formal schooling. Obviously she’s a very rigid person!

  • Jody Lanham says:

    I love this thread, and Tracey of Whimsy Jewelry Designs was speaking from my heart! I am an artist too and sometimes the words resist emerging from my lips and my thoughts, but I do things in a way that is creative and artistic and have been called an artist by many. I love what she said about showing your inner self and that not many people are willing to do that. It takes a lot of courage to be an artist because not only are you turning yourself inside out for all to see but you are exposing yourself to judgement and criticism (as well as praise!) And I have been observing when I do shows how many people flock to the booths that have row after row of the same style just in different colors. It is safe, for the seller and for the buyer. No secrets revealed, nothing exposed. Simple easy and safe. But I would not be satisfied with creating or selling that or buying that. I love different unique and original, which is what I do. I cannot always define where an idea comes from I just know that it is rooted inside me somewhere and reaches out and grabs pieces and parts from the rest of the world and puts them all together into something that will appeal to just the right person. When that happens the reward has been received and all the time effort hard work money and sometimes frustration has been worth it!

    Designs by Jody

  • Nancy says:

    An excellent group of statements on the question, “Are you an artist?”
    I am probably much older than most of you so I’ve been through most of the trials and tribulations many of you are dealing with today.

    There were times when I worried about having my work accepted and appreciated. I know the gut wrenching feeling you get when some one makes cruel and cutting remarks about your work. It has taken me years to learn how to deal with it.

    Finally I am at the age where others opinions of my work aren’t that important to me. I know my jewelry design are unusual and at times fanciful. They don’t appeal to everyone but they sell because they are unique and a reflection of my own creativity.

    Just remember that critics are not infallible. They view everything from their own perspective but their view isn’t the only one. Many are arrogant and too full of their own importance and don’t really care if their remarks are hurtful. It is just as easy to give an honest opinion that is encouraging as to give one that is cutting.

    So if any one asks ,”Are you an artist?” Tell them “Yes. I make jewelry. I am a jewelry artist. “

  • Cat says:

    Easy..peasy! Artist? How about Artisan…. always has a nice ring to it and people don’t confuse you with a painter…haha. I love the ones that get “artisan” mixed up with “artesian” (as in “water” But, I find “artisan” simple. That’s how I see myself and it is a quick way to tell someone what you do…”I’m a jewelry artisan”. If they don’t get it, they should shop for jewelry from Taiwan at KMart. 😉

  • Donna says:

    I always felt that I was not artistically inclined, because I could not draw.
    I found my art on jewelry making! When my business partner go to shows, we do much better at art shows than craft shows, especially in the small area where we live. People usually understand that, but still don’t buy anything because they think my prices are too high. Then other people think they are not high enough because of all the details.

  • Leslie Schmidt says:

    Very interesting thoughts everyone shared. I remember one day in a craft store someone saying, “Oh, you’re a beader.” I said, “No, I am actually a stringer as I string things together rather than sew beads together.” At that time, I didn’t understand either word very well as I had just started making jewelry. After thinking it all through and reading lots of Q & A’s like this article, I learned to say, “I make and design jewelry, and now I teach jewelry making.” So, YES, I AM an artist. I have been since childhood. I remember a friend making the most amazing quilts and denying that she was an artist (she had low self-esteem) and we all tried to encourage her and let her know she was denying her artistic talents. My grandmother taught all of us grandkids (boys and girls alike) that we can do anything we put our minds to do ~ we might not do it all well, but we can do it. That has helped me and my cousins to become successful artists in many areas. Now if I could just limit all my creative ventures to just a few rather than so many (cooking, sewing, crocheting, knitting, painting, jewelry making, gardening, etc.), my art room might not be so full of everything.

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